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The Wire e gli altri: l’America nelle sue serie TV

N.3 Nuova Serie

Inverno 2012 - Anno XIX

A cura di: 
Fiorenzo Iuliano, Donatella Izzo e Cinzia Scarpino

Introduzione: serie TV, seconda stagione - p. 5

Fiorenzo Iuliano, Donatella Izzo, Cinzia Scarpino
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Breaking Back: uno sguardo dal passato, ovvero, note per una genealogia - p. 7

Fiorenzo Iuliano, Cinzia Scarpino

This two-part essay attempts to trace some of the formal and semantic continuities and discontinuities between present-day series and the TV series of the 1970s and 1990s, respectively. Through a historical approach, Cinzia Scarpino examines some situation comedies (such as All in the Family and Maude) and crime dramas (Kojak, Baretta, Columbo, Starsky & Hutch) of the 1970s, showing how they managed to sustain excellent ratings while addressing controversial issues of their time, such as women's and gay rights, and divorce and abortion laws. Comparing them with today's TV shows such as Modern Family, Shameless, Big Bang Theory and CSI, Scarpino argues that the realistic effort to deal with contemporary societal problems underlying 1970s shows has been partially maintained in sitcoms and dramedies, while it has essentially been lost in crime dramas. Fiorenzo Iuliano analyzes David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990-91) as a forerunner of the so-called second golden age of American TV series, hinting at themes and concerns that will become crucial in the most celebrated series of the 1990s. Its insightful representation of the collapse of the idealized image of the American family and the emergence of teenagers as a social group with its own troubles and sets of values, is in fact developed in the most popular teenage soap of the decade, Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000). In the 1990s adolescence starts to be represented as potentially expanding indefinitely into adulthood, as perfectly portrayed in the iconic sit-com Friends (1994-2004). These three shows, different in genre and spectatorship, collectively provide a sort of mapping of the most distinctive aspects of American TV series in the 1990s.

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"Way Down in the Hole": la diseguaglianza urbana sistemica e The Wire - p. 27

Anmol Chaddha, William Julius Wilson

This essay analyzes The Wire through a sociological lens, reading the series as a faithful rendering of the actual pre­dicament of poor black urban commu­nities, both in Baltimore and in other inner cities of the US, in the wake of deindustrialization and other econom­ic, social, and political developments over the last few decades. Through its set of characters and its interweaving stories, The Wire effectively displays the interconnectedness of different forms of disadvantage, fostering a comprehen­sive understanding of systemic urban inequality as the result of the cumula­tive operation of such interrelated fac­tors as race, the decline of urban labor markets, crime and incarceration, the failure of the education system, and the inability of political institutions to serve the interests of the urban poor.

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La sociologia e The Wire - p. 45

Kenneth W. Warren

In this critical response to the previous essay, the author argues that Chaddha and Wilson's reliance on a sociologi­cal model leads them to produce a de-politicized account of both poverty and sociology, making them collusive with the very forces they wish to criticize. By analyzing Chaddha and Wilson's reading of specific episodes of The Wire, the author criticizes their dismissal of class as a relevant category and their emphasis on a culturalist analysis that fails to do justice to the structural and political causes of poverty.

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The Wire, dove realtà e finzione si incrociano. Elementi per una geografia sociale di Baltimora - p. 52

Fabio Amato

This essay investigates the role of TV se­ries as a tool for geographical interpret­ation, both in terms of their depiction of landscape and as bearing witness to the sociopolitical tensions that materialize in different spaces and can differently shape territories. Its case study is the police procedural The Wire, whose five seasons were broadcast by HBO from 2002 to 2008. The Wire is set in Balti­more, and the range of its characters, exceeding the usual roles of criminals and police forces, renders the city as a symbol of the contradictions of contem­porary urban contexts, both in the USA and in the Western world at large.

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Burocrazia della sicurezza o terrore nazionale? The Wire incontraThe Office - p. 64

Alan Nadel

The Office and The Wire share the premise that in a hierarchy every employee rises to his or her level of incompetence, a principle known as "The Peter Princi­ple." The people in these shows, more­over, craving cinematic confirmation of their identities, have internalized "the I-of-the-camera." This situation typifies the conditions of terror in this Age of terrorism, in that homeland security re­lies on agencies, rendered by the Peter Principle and the I-of-the-camera, no more competent than Dunder-Mifflin and its alter-egos in Baltimore law en­forcement. Examinations of the Space Challenger catastrophe, the shootings at Fort Hood, and the Christmas Day bomber make this clear.

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Il doppiaggio italiano di The Office tra specificità culturali e "spinte" globali - p. 75

Anna Belladelli

This essay provides a contrastive anal­ysis of the original British TV series The Office, its U.S. version, and their dubbing into Italian. It focuses on the translation and adaptation of culture-specific references to British and U.S. culture, such as history, politics, music, cinema, television, commercial brands, etc. Elements of inconsistency in the use of foreignizating and domesticating tech­niques are observed, and placed within a context of cultural change and global­ization, where the boundaries between 'source' and 'target' lingua-culture are increasingly blurred, and new technol­ogies make viewers more independent in decoding the original text. These re­cent developments in society seem to be leading to a shift in the role and pro­fession of audiovisual translators.

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Comunità polimorfe. Famiglia, sesso, potere e religione in Big Love - p. 94

Gianna Fusco

To what extent in U.S. culture can mi­nority sets of values be acknowledged as legitimate before they impact upon the unsurpassable limits set by a higher order of law? This article investigates polygamy in Big Love as epitomizing the clash between the recognized norms within a minority and the broader body of the national law, and thus identifying the family institution as a crucial site of definition for U.S. national identity. Air­ing for the first time in 2006 on HBO, Big Love portrays the vicissitudes of a fun­damentalist Mormon husband and his three wives, and the difficulties faced by this unusual family within the wider community of the American nation, which bans polygamy and thus places them outside the recognized paradigm of law. The series portrays polygamy as problematic for the fundamentalists themselves and identifies the structur­al power imbalance between men and women as one of its most controversial aspects in the eyes of contemporary American mainstream.

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"La città delle illusioni": The Happy Place (CSI Las Vegas 9.2) - p. 109

Carlo Pagetti

In the aftermath of the death of CSI agent Warrick Brown, the utopian dream of a far-away "happy place" (Darwin's Galapagos archipelago, Ha­waii) is cruelly mirrored in the illuso­ry chances of a better life involved in three murder cases investigated by the CSI team. Especially young women are alternately victims and predators. The wicked hypnotic magic of Madame Marvelous destroys the life of a beau­tiful girl, waiting for her honeymoon, while a sort of hypnotic power ties the existence of a devoted husband to the violated body, lying in a hospital, of her comatose wife, and makes him a killer. The third casualty is Paula Bon-filio, a compulsive gambler, willing to sacrifice her ambiguous and revengeful family in order to satisfy her search for extreme sensations. With its "unnatural brightness" CSI Las Vegas is a diseased city of illusions, devouring also the life of a tired and embittered Gil Grissom.

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Demitizzare il western: le tre stagioni di Deadwood (2004-2006) - p. 115

Stefano Rosso

In this essay, Deadwood is set against the tradition of the Western portrayed in fiction, movies and TV series and se­rials. It argues that the most intriguing aspects of this innovative serial stem from the work accomplished by writers such as Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy in the 1980s and 1990s, and from the extensive research of the New Western Historians in the last four de­cades. The essay focuses on three main aspects: the eccentric views on the West of David Milch, the serial's creator and executive producer; the complex re­lations, founded on purely economic forces, within a settlement (South Da­kota, 1876) where law and order do not yet exist; and the weird mixture of persistent profanity and very ornate language.

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Il Terzo Luogo. Lost e gli stati intermedi tra la vita e la morte - p. 129

Manuel Delgado

The television series Lost updates a log­ical characteristic of the primary phase of the funeral rites of passage, taking as its subject the role of personal respon­sibility in the final destination of the deceased. This determination develops in an imaginary location conceived as the edge between the world of the liv­ing and of the dead, an intermediary zone whose characteristics would be inspired by the thematic and narrative repertoire of contemporary Gnosticism and Orphism, particularly from the point of view of New Age esoteric syn­cretism. This article attempts a decon-struction of the series, identifying some of the probable sources that feed it, both theoretical and formal.

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Ansel Adams fotografo della wilderness pp. 141-172 (a cura di Stefano Rosso)

Fotografie del tempo, fuori dalla storia - p. 141

Paolo Barbaro

In the work of Ansel Adams (1902­1984), definitely one of the world's most famous photographers, one can detect two mythologies positioned outside historical time: the uncontami-nated natural landscape, potentially eternal, and the power of photographic techniques to attain objectivity. In Italy, the cult status or rejection of his work - both founded on misreadings - ap­pear almost rhythmically, sometimes due to its complex relationship to the American culture of photographic im­age, sometimes to an unresolved con­trast between humanistic and technical cultures.

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Visualizzare "l'elemento umano": Ansel Adams ritrattista - p. 148

Audrey Goodman

This essay explores how the practice of portraiture challenged Ansel Adams to integrate visions of nature and culture and to seek the human in inhuman land­scapes. By demonstrating how Adams situated his subjects in time or in place to provide contexts for reading their in­dividual and social identities, the essay argues that Adams's anonymous, envi­ronmental, and close-up portraits were simultaneously efforts to negotiate shifts in the meaning of portraiture and a means of refining his distinct aesthetic project of animating the natural monu­ments of the American West.

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Ansel Adams e il West, in teoria - p. 160

Kelly Dennis

This essay discusses two of Adams's most iconic photographs of the desert Southwest—Moonrise Over Hernandez, New Mexico, and White House Ruins, Canyon de Chelly, both from 1941—as they feature prominently in relation to contemporary artists' revisionings of the West, both visually and concep­tually. Photographs by such artists as Robert Adams, Mark Klett, Deborah Bright, and Trevor Paglen contend var­iously not only with Adams's photogra­phic legacy but also with the politics of gender, geology, geography, and glob-alism in the American West. By consid­ering the work of these later artists as they have variously "revised" that of Ansel Adams, this essay teases out just a few of the many tensions in Adams's ongoing legacy, and investigates that legacy's impact on and transformation by artists who negotiate contemporary political and environmental concerns.

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